Over the last forty years, I’ve noticed the name “Pat Metheny.” It means something to me. I’ll get to that in a minute.
Pat Metheny is a jazz guitarist and composer, born in Missouri in 1954. He is a very big deal. I will quote from the Wikipedia entry on him: “Metheny has three gold albums and twenty Grammy awards and is the only person to win Grammys in ten categories.”
A new album of his, From This Place, came my way. (The label is Nonesuch.) I’ve listened to it—and walked down Memory Lane.
When I was in my mid-teens, I had a friend who was a very good pianist, cellist, and composer. (His realm was classical.) I lost touch with him before the end of high school. Do not know what his life became.
He asked me to go to a Pat Metheny concert with him. “He’s fantastic,” my friend said. “Really talented, really good.” I had never heard my friend praise a non-classical musician. I didn’t even know he ever listened to non-classical music! His words really got my attention.
Thanks to Google, I know that the concert was on Sunday, April 12, 1981, at 8 p.m. The venue was Hill Auditorium, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, my hometown. The tickets were $6.50, $7.50, and $8.50. I think we had the $7.50 seats. (Quite a splurge.)
Just as an aside, I see that the Pat Metheny Group played in Miller Auditorium, in Kalamazoo, the night before. In Miller Auditorium, I saw my first opera—Carmen—when I was about twelve, I think. (My great-aunt took me.) (I was bored stiff.) (I got to like it later, trust me.)
I did not stay very long at the Pat Metheny concert. For one thing, I wasn’t used to the amplification—I’m still not. Years later, in 2014, I wrote an essay called “Down with Eleven: On the overamplification of American life.” I will quote a paragraph:
Complaining about the sound of music—not in the Julie Andrews sense—is a classic expression of fogeyism. But I can plead this: if I’m a fogey, I have always been. When I was in high school, a musician friend of mine asked me to go with him to hear Pat Metheny, a jazz guitarist. My friend said he was first-rate. That night, he may well have been—but the amplification was so great, I could hardly hear him. I could not really listen to the music. It was a question of enduring the sonic assault (which I could not do for long).
Well, I can have the new recording—From This Place—at any volume I want. Do I like it? Yes. It sometimes has the doodling, disorganized, meandering quality that is characteristic of contemporary jazz. That’s one of my beefs against the genre. Also, there is a certain sameness, I find. But, as with minimalism, if you give in—if you get with the vibe—you’re okay. Better than okay.
In any case, à chacun son goût. I am not doing proper criticism here. I am mainly saying: Pat Metheny will always mean something to me. My friend’s admiration made an impression on me.